This poverty analysis of the National Population and Housing Census conducted
in 2008 will be very important in guiding Government in her policy planning and
formulation because programs that target the poor and most vulnerable groups
can be better focused in the coming years. More specifically, the Poverty
Reduction Strategy (PRS) - commonly referred to as “Lift Liberia”- is under
revision and these results may guide prioritization of social programs to areas
with high concentration of the poor, more especially in rural areas. The Unmet
Basic Needs (UBN) Approach was used to measure the poverty level in the
country. The use of access to basic needs as a proxy for poverty measurement has captured the world’s attention because it identifies areas of social services
The overall objective of the poverty analysis is to identify the poor, their
characteristics and geographical distribution using the unmet basic needs
approach. Unmet basic needs index was worked out based on the 2008 Census
data. The services included in the index are: ownership of assets, quality of
housing, access to health services, safe water, proper solid waste management
system, literacy and unemployment status of the households.
The essential assets deficiency was about 85 percent in the country. Likewise the
non essential assets deficiency was also very high, estimated at about 96 percent. The high percentage of households without the essential and non essential amenities shows the general aftermath effect of the civil conflict which resonated in all villages, hamlets, towns and cities throughout the country.
Electricity deficiency for both lighting and cooking was very high in the country.
Electricity for lighting deficiency was about 95 percent. In addition, the use of
pipe borne water as main source of drinking water was very low; the piped water
deficiency of about 61 percent. The country experiences high level of improper
waste disposal because 87 percent of the households do not use flush toilets for
human waste disposal. Another reason for the experience of high level of
improper waste disposal is that many of the infrastructures and properties (these include houses) were destroyed during the civil war.
Employment is one of the principal sources of income for the households.
Unemployment may be considered as a proxy for poverty. Unemployment among
household heads was estimated at about 14 percent and most of the unemployed were urban based. Education is power. It empowers people to get information easily; hence, illiteracy, especially in this digital age is devastating. About 47 percent of the household heads had never attended school and 46 percent were illiterate.
Over 40 minutes walk, ride or drive to the nearest health facility was considered
inadequate and hence a household was considered health deficient based on this
criterion. About 52 percent of the households were found to take over 40 minutes to the nearest health facility.
Liberia is a food-insecure country with inadequate food crop production and a
sizable amount of imports of food items including animal and animal products.
The census results indicated that nationally, about 47 percent of the farmers were engaged in food crop farming. Since they do not produce for the market and with virtually no surpluses, they were considered food insecure.
The Unmet Basic Needs (UBN) approach was used to compute an index of the
unmet basic needs for Liberia using the 2008 Census. Overall, Rivercess county
had the highest proportion of the households with Unmet Basic Need deficiency
at about 82 percent followed by Grand Kru county at 78 percent. Montserrado,
Margibi and Maryland counties were the least unmet basic need deficient
About two thirds of the households have unmet basic needs deficiency or about
2.1 million persons of which 1.2 million are in rural areas and the rest reside in
urban areas. It implies that the rural part of the country is faced with very high
poverty levels. Therefore, poverty programs should be designed to target people
living in rural areas in order to increase their chances of success in poverty
Generally, the male headed households who never went to school had a higher
proportion resident in temporary housing units compared to their female
counterparts - about 35 percent for male and 29 percent for female. Likewise,
higher proportion of male headed households had water and solid waste system
deficiency. The elderly were worse off in terms of housing deficiency because
about 39 percent were resident in temporary units compared to other age groups. It was also noted that the proportion of youth headed households without the three essential amenities was 87.5 percent. About 88 percent of households headed by elderly persons had essential asset deficiency compared to 85 percent for the most economically active age group.
The characteristics of poverty show that people living in rural areas are at the
extreme end of the poverty dimension in Liberia. Therefore urgent policies need
to be crafted to ensure that the goals of the PRS are attained.
The concentration of poverty in the rural areas suggests that many of the people are engaged in economic activities such as subsistence farming which if not improved in terms of productivity will keep the farmers at the realm of poverty. The damaged infrastructures throughout the country implies that farmers who want to sell their products cannot get to the market in time especially when the bulk of the food crops are highly perishable.
In an effort to tackle the huge wave of poverty prevailing in the country, the
following recommendations may be considered:
•That the Government formulate and implement agricultural policies which
will promote agricultural production for food security and income generation;
•The general road network be improved, most especially farm to market roads
need to be prioritized. This would lead to increase in production, thereby
ensuring that farmers generate the income needed to acquire basic amenities;
•Polices to improve the living standards of persons with disabilities should be
formulated since these persons are not able to take up opportunities because
they are incapacitated and therefore require special assistance;
•The “each one teach one” adult literacy program should be enhanced so as to
increase adult literacy among the population especially among the rural
•Electric power generation should be prioritized so as to attract investment in
agricultural products value addition and other industries which require reliable
and fairly priced electricity supply; and
•The Government programs should be scaled up so as to ensure increased
access to better housing, safe water and proper waste disposal systems in the
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